Charter Schools in Action: Renewing Public Education

By Chester E. Finn Jr.; Bruno V. Manno et al. | Go to book overview

1
WHAT'S A "CHARTER SCHOOL"?

The charter school concept has the potential to utterly transform public education. Thanks to charter schools, the public is getting used to the idea that a school does not need to be operated directly by government in order to be public.

Scott W Hamilton, former Associate Commissioner,
Massachusetts Department of Education

CHARTER SCHOOLS are the liveliest reform in American education. "When I was elected President," Bill Clinton observed in July 1998, "There was only one such school in the country.... We're well on our way to meeting my goal of creating 3,000 such schools by the beginning of the next century." 1 Connecticut Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman writes: "Competition from charter schools is the best way to motivate the ossified bureaucracies governing too many public schools. This grass-roots revolution seeks to reconnect public education with our most basic values: ingenuity, responsibility, and accountability." 2 An Arizona official terms charter schools "the most important thing happening in public education."

Before these unconventional public schools vaulted into the spotlight in the mid-1990s, education reform in the United States was nearing paralysis — stalemated by politics, confused by the cacophony of a thousand schemes working at cross-purposes, and hobbled by most people's inability to imagine anything very different from the schools they had attended decades earlier.

More than a generation of schoolchildren have passed through U.S. schools since the National Commission on Excellence in Education warned in 1983 that America's well-being was menaced by the mediocrity of our

____________________
1
Remarks of President Bill Clinton in the Rose Garden, Washington, D.C., Office of the White House Press Secretary, 24 July 1998.
2
Joseph Lieberman, "Schools Where Kids Succeed," Readers' Digest, January 1999. Lieberman was the sponsor of the first federal Charter School Grant Program and co-sponsored the 1998 Charter School Expansion Act.

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Charter Schools in Action: Renewing Public Education
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Charter Schools in Action - Renewing Public Education *
  • Contents *
  • Tables *
  • List of Interviews and Profiles *
  • Introduction *
  • Part I Charter Schools in Action *
  • 1: What's a "Charter School"? *
  • 2: Field Trips *
  • 3: Where Did They Come From? *
  • 4: How Are They Working? *
  • 5: Trials by Fire *
  • 6: The Accountability Puzzle *
  • Part II Renewing Public Education *
  • 7: The Case Against Charter Schools *
  • 8: Political Battlegrounds *
  • 9: Beyond the Schoolhouse Door *
  • 10: Beyond the Schoolhouse Door *
  • 11: The Great Issues *
  • 12: Will Charter Schools Save Public Education? *
  • Epilogue *
  • Appendix: Survey Results and Methodology *
  • Index *
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